3000 residents of Ak-Tam village district have improved access to irrigation water – one of the main causes of inter-ethnic conflicts

local residents cleaning the canal
Ak-Tam village district residents are preparing the canal for cementing. Credit: UNDP

In May 2013 head of Zhapa-Saldy village in Jalal-Abad province opened a concrete canal that delivers irrigation water to two villages: Zhapa-Saldy and Kyzyl-Ata. Covering the canal with concrete helped reduce the loss of water by 40-50% and provide improved access to irrigation water for 3,000 residents. This will help irrigate larger areas of land and eliminate one of the most frequent causes of inter-ethnic conflicts.

"We marked the time during which water arrives at a certain place: now it takes only 17 minutes to arrive at a place where it used to take 2 hours. It allows to cover larger areas and avoid disputes because of lack of water" – says mayor of Zhapa Saldy village Artykbaev Rahmatilla.

Highlights

  • Improved access to irrigation water for 3,000 residents
  • Cleaning canals and working with people helped ease the conflict potential in a multiethnic community of 10,000 people.

Ak-Tam village district is a cross-border and multi-ethnic district of Ala-Buka district and borders Yangi-Kurgan district of Namangan province of Uzbekistan. There are more than 10 000 people of different nationalities, mostly Uzbeks and Kyrgyz, living in the village district. They are mainly engaged in farming and animal husbandry.

There are a lot of different problems, but two of them – shortage of land and irrigation water are the most severe and cause inter-ethnic conflicts. The number of conflicts grew with every year, while resolving them became more difficult. There were a lot of conflicts around the local water canal which was full of reeds and trees and could not pass enough water.

Local people realized that the only way to solve this problem is to reconstruct the irrigation canal. However they did not have enough funds for reconstruction. UNDP provided 1.2 million soms to purchase construction materials and WFP provided flour and butter for 77 people from vulnerable groups of people reconstructed the channel.

Local municipality and residents contributed with construction materials and their transportation, meals for workers which totaled to 205 000 soms. All the work on clearing the channel, substrate preparation and cementing was done by local residents.

In addition to technical support, UNDP has also sponsored a round table discussion, educational meetings, seminars and training sessions on the basics of conflict resolution, conflict analysis and negotiations.

Reconstruction of the canal was an example of effective cooperation between international agencies, local authorities and the population. This work was a good experience of joint activities to resolve common issues for residents of Ak-Tam village district. This experience will help them in the future to constructively manage conflicts, negotiate and resolve problems peacefully. All of these events give us hope that in in Ak-Tam village district all problems will be resolved peacefully.